Reigning North West League champions Vancouver Canadians will continue serving as an affiliate club for the Toronto Blue Jays with a new extension through 2016.

The Canadians were named Toronto’s Short Season A affiliate in 2011, and have since collected back-to-back league titles and registered record-breaking attendances at Nat Bailey Stadium.

They are the only baseball club in Canada to have an affiliation with a Major League Baseball franchise. Vancouver was a farm club to the Oakland Athletics prior to its relationship with the Blue Jays.

The agreement benefits Toronto as well, who are able to develop players in the system on Canadian soil. Not only does it allow for a farm team in the country, but also eases the players’ transition to living in Canada before landing a position on the Blue Jays.

A western affiliation to the Blue Jays helps the club market itself as “Canada’s team,” and helps steal a fan base from the Seattle Mariners and other West Coast teams.

“The Vancouver Canadians have been champions on and off the field during our first two seasons as partners of this great organization,” says Blue Jays Director of Minor League Operations Charlie Wilson in a press release.

“We are proud to have Canada’s only minor league baseball club as our partners. Considering our relationship with the Canadians front office to the atmosphere and facilities at Nat Bailey Stadium, it was an easy decision to extend our partnership in Vancouver.”

While the Canadians are in offseason until June, the Blue Jays have reported for spring training in Dunedin, Florida with Grapefruit League action slated to begin on Feb. 23.

Manager John Gibbons announced newly acquired Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey will pitch opening day for Toronto. Following in the rotation will be Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, and Ricky Romero (likely on a short leash after last year’s blunders).

Despite plenty of offseason rumours, Casey Janssen kept his job as closing pitcher for the Jays this season. Janssen took over from injured Sergio Santos and went on to record 22 saves.

J.P. Arencibia also held his position over winter amid a flurry of trade talks, and has been working with Dickey, Buehrle, and Johnson to start spring training. Henry Blanco will likely become backup catcher for Toronto.

General Manager Alex Anthopoulos also spoke out before Spring Training, making it known the club is not concerned about Melky Cabrera’s alleged connection to a performance-enhancing drugs (PED) supplier. Toronto signed Cabrera to a two-year contract in Nov. after serving a 50-game suspension for PED use, but posting a National League best .346 batting average.

The Blue Jays’ first spring training game is against Detroit on Feb. 23 and can be seen on Sportsnet Pacific.